Author Archives: Margot
Author Archives: Margot
It was a pleasant spring afternoon. The family (visiting for the week) were enjoying the cross-breeze and relaxing on the verandah in the early afternoon.
It was fun watching Michelle’s puppy, Gregorii, socialising with our three feral piglets. Though the pigs were small, they felt confident in their territory and numbers and thought it great sport to terrorise Gregorii. They would charge at her snorting and grunting before safely retreating under the house. Gregorii could only nudge her head under the bearers and stare and growl at them, waiting for them to come out and charge her again. It was great sport.
When Michelle noticed Gregorii’s barking turn a little frenetic she was quick to respond. Gregorii had discovered a big brown snake stretched out on the garden bed – another playmate!
“Oh my god! It’s a snake,” Michelle yelled and scooped up Gregorii and held her safe. The chit chat on the verandah came to an abrupt halt. Everyone jumped up to get a better view, peering into the garden from a safe distance.
I knew just what to do. Pulling on my gum boots I retrieved the rake and spade from the garden shed. Not that I’d ever killed a snake before, but I thought I could handle it.
Lauren stood bravely near the garden bed, watching the snake in case it moved. We needed to know where it went, if it did move. We needed to chop off its head. I wasn’t sure which weapon to use first but decided on the rake – if I wasn’t successful in piercing his neck with one of the teeth, I felt confident I could pin him down at least.
Everyone was quiet, watching. I suppose they assumed I was experienced at this sort of thing.
Careful to get my footing secure, I aimed the rake. I paused holding it like a sword ready to pierce. I wanted my thrust to be powerful and sure. I meant business. Taking a deep breath, I rammed the rake down on his head. His body reacted to my attack, writhing. The rake’s teeth had not pierced him but I managed to hold him pinned.
“Here, Lauren. Chop off his head with the spade while I hold him.” I passed the spade to her with my free hand and leaned my chest into the rake, holding him firm. Lauren lifted the spade and brought it down hard on his head. “I got him,” she said.
“Don’t let him go,” yelled Grandma her voice tort with anxiety. “Hold him, hold him! He mightn’t be dead yet.”
Lauren lifted the spade gingerly. Still holding him tight with the rake, we leaned forward to inspect the damage. To our horror, his head moved. It looked a bit flattened and he was stunned but he was definitely still alive!
“Here, you take the rake and hold him.” Lauren took over the rake, holding him pinned. His body was writhing fighting to get free. I took the spade and raised it ready to strike.
Something happened at that moment. I’m not quite sure what. I think the vision of our beautiful bull lying dead, a few weeks earlier filled my mind. Had a snake got him? I was pretty mad about that. Something came over me as I brought that spade down. I attacked yelling, “You f…ing mongrel! You f…ing mongrel!” I was as one possessed.
But no matter how many times or how hard I struck, I couldn’t get that head off. He was tough. We moved him onto a rock to provide some resistance to my strikes. That helped. We succeeded. His head was off. He was dead. All heaved a sigh of relief.
But he didn’t look dead. His torso continued to writhe and slither in graceful purpose. It was eerie. In fact it was quite horrifying. I kept looking back at the separated head. He must be dead. We must be safe. But his body just kept moving – creepy.
Sure that the intruder was dead, Grandma came into the garden. “Now look here,” she said to me, the experienced snake defender. “This is what I do.” Taking the spade from me, she demonstrated bringing the spade down on the snake’s neck in one sure strike. “Then you hold it there. Hold it there as long as you have to. Hold it until you are sure that it is dead.”
NOW I knew what to do. The adrenalin subsided, the excitement passed. The chit chat started up again.
We are never sure when the next visitor will pop up out of nowhere. My eyes scan the garden every day, just in case.
We are in damage control. What do we do with our stock when there is no water and no feed? We had opened every gate to every paddock to give the stock access to all the water holes and any feed left on the block. Then we had to close them again. The thick mud in some of the dams is too much of a hazard. We have to keep the stock out.
I found another cow stuck in the mud while out on a muster. She was nearly spent poor soul. She must have been trapped for a couple of days. Even her head was stuck as she lay on her side. She couldn’t even lift it up. Actually, she looked dead. But I watched carefully for a while and saw her ear flicker. It was alarming to see her still clinging hopelessly to life with no hope of relief. She couldn’t be pulled out, she was past it.
Chris shot off two rounds to give her some peace. The blood was surprisingly bright as it oozed into the dam.
Chris had found yet another cow a few kilometres away in a similar predicament but she was in better shape. We decided to attempt to pull her out.
Chris backed up the Patrol as close as possible over the dam wall. We tied a strap around her neck and tied the other end to the tow bar. Her front quarters were buried up to the base of her neck. She must have been thrashing around for a while but only succeeded in burying herself deeper, like quicksand. But her head was up and she looked alert. She was aware we were there to help her.
Chris got in the car ready to drag her out. I stood watch to tell him how it was going as he couldn’t see the old girl. Pulling a 400-500 kilo beast out by the neck isn’t pretty. I kept stopping Chris as I was worried he would break her neck.
“I just have to try to pull her out. There is nothing else I can do,” he said as he got back in the car for the third time determined. He didn’t stop this time. I just stood and watched as the Patrol heaved and eventually “popped” her out of the mud hole. She didn’t even try to help herself.
We rushed over to get the strap off and to coax her to stand up. She didn’t look well. In fact, she looked worse. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head. She was really in distress.
I couldn’t stop the tears any longer. It was so upsetting to see her in such a state when we were trying to help her, to save her.
“Just like Ross said,” Chris cursed. “If the mud doesn’t kill them you really fuck them up when you pull them out.” But what else could we do? We couldn’t just leave her there to die. We had to try.
We decided to let her recover. She might stand up of her own accord. I had to walk away from the car to try to compose myself. The tears wouldn’t stop, the impact of the drought crushing down on me. We were failing in our duty of care to look after these animals.
There was no hope. We couldn’t save her. A few hours later Chris put six bullets in her head. She kept moving and I wanted her out of her misery so he kept shooting till finally she gave out her last breath.
The drought is such an emotional battle. How do you remain positive when you have to deal with such grief? It was a tough day.
There was one positive out the tragic event. We were able to eventually run down her calf. Now I have my first poddy calf. I’m calling him “Muddy”. At least we saved him.
Its funny, but having a calf to bottle feed twice a day is making me feel like I really am a grazier.
We set off pretty early on our planned day’s activity: Chris clearing scrub on the dozer, me poisoning some regrowth. I did my own thing on the quad bike and we agreed to meet for morning tea at the dozer.
I was working away, lost in my thoughts when he turned up unexpectedly in the car and talked to me through the window, “I found a dead cow at the dam. She was stuck in the mud. There was another old girl stuck as well. I pulled her out but she didn’t get up. Don’t know how she’ll go.”
It was bad news, the impact of the drought. The shrinking dams were turning into death traps with too much exposed mud. It wasn’t a good start to the day. Chris set off to check all the dams.
My work done, I fired up the quad to meet Chris as arranged. As I reached the dozer, I saw him approaching unexpectedly on foot from the opposite direction. I wondered where the car was.
“I got dry-bogged.” He informed me. “I’ll have to get the dozer down there to pull it out.” He had walked a long way from the car with no water. It was fortunate we arrived at the dozer at the same time.
The recovery operation swung into gear when we got to the bog site.
The Patrol’s right wheels were almost buried in the dust and she was leaning rather alarmingly. It’d faltered trying to pull the trailer up a steep bank, coming out of the gully. The trailer was jack knifing behind at an awkward angle.
“You’ll have to steer the car,” Chris said. I could feel my heart racing in my chest immediately.
With the snatchy strap in place I opened the driver’s door gingerly, hoping that wouldn’t tip it over. It was awkward to climb in but I managed. With the dozer purring, Chris inched forward to take up the slack on the snatchy. He gently tugged the car with the dozer. But instead of the car moving forward, it sunk further on it’s lean to the right! Chris stopped immediately.
I was panicking now, my hands trembling and my chest in pain. I didn’t want to be in that car if it rolled over! We got out and circled the situation again – inspected and re-inspected the predicament. It took a bit of doing but we managed to unhook the trailer.
Its moments like these I hate living in the bush – facing harsh realities with no one around to help. You have to rely on your own ingenuity – ingenuity I don’t feel confident I have. But you can’t walk away either though I wanted to just ride home and have a cup of tea. We had to get the car and trailer out and Chris needed my help to do it. I had to dig deep.
I faced my worst fear – the car might roll over. What would happen to me if it did? Probably not much as it would just stop on its side. I climbed back into the car and wound up the window. At least it would provide some meager protection. The seatbelt was locked due to the lean so I couldn’t put it on. I couldn’t really say I was calmer but I was determined.
We tried again with Chris pulling from a different angle. I worked hard to keep those wheels turned in the right direction. My heart was in my mouth. Success! Now that it was no longer weighed down by the trailer, the dozer was able to gently drag the car to firmer ground without tipping it over. Phew!
I feel sick in the tummy just thinking about it even now.
By the time we had pulled out the trailer as well, re-hooked it to the Patrol, and driven them to surer ground, our day was over. I felt rather exhausted. It was good to get home and have a glass of wine. You just never know how your day will turn out when you are out in the bush!
A planned day out to finish off a fence way up the back, came to an abrupt halt.
We unhooked the trailer and Chris managed to drive the car out. He moved it to solid ground (or so he thought) in a different position. He wanted to have a go at pulling the trailer out. It didn’t go so well…
The chassis was sitting on the ground. So what did we do? We had morning tea of course…
Then we brought out the big guns.
But that didn’t work so well either…
We finally succeeded but we did leave a big mess…
And so we spend lots of time in the house waiting for it to dry out…